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Centre on Migration, Policy and Society Working Paper No.

107 University of Oxford, 2013

Is Citizenship the Answer? Constructions of belonging and exclusion for the stateless Rohingya of Burma Cresa L. Pugh WP-13-107 This paper is also published as IMI Working Paper No. 76

COMPAS does not have a centre view and does not aim to present one. The views expressed in this document are only those of its independent author.

Abstract The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group in Arakan State, Burma, are among the most vulnerable and persecuted populations across the globe. Despite their significant historical presence in the country, the Government of Burma does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens, thus rendering the population stateless. Many observers argue that the root cause of the crisis is the groups denial of legal status, suggesting that granting them citizenship would offer a lasting solution. While the possession of legal status is fundamental to an inclusive notion of citizenship, consideration of other non-formal dimensions of citizenship are just as necessary in expanding the boundaries of inclusion. Drawing on the case of the Rohingya, I will conduct a genealogy of exclusion to illustrate that their status is not merely a product of lacking citizenship, but rather embedded in more elaborate processes of nation building, ethno-political identification, and religious intolerance. This paper challenges the centrality of the concept of legal citizenship through an interrogation of the Rohingyas exclusion from historical narratives, their ambiguous status, and their current socioeconomic insecurity in an attempt to move the conversation beyond their statelessness and lack of formal status to understand the true nature of their exclusion. Keywords: Rohingya, citizenship, statelessness, refugee, Burma, nation building, belonging, ethnonationalism Author: Cresa L. Pugh,

Introduction Numbering upwards of one million individuals in Burma, the Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority group primarily residing within Arakan State in the northwest, are among the most vulnerable and persecuted populations across the globe. Burma has historically been a predominantly Buddhist country, with approximately 15% of the total population of 58 million practicing Islam. In Arakan, it is estimated that 59.7% of the 3.8 million individuals are Buddhist, 35.6% are the Muslim Rohingya, and the remainder constitute other religious groups (Alam 2011). Despite their significant numbers and substantial historical presence in the country, the government of Burma does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens, thus rendering the population stateless. For decades, Muslims in Arakan, and particularly the Rohingya, have been subjected to excessive violence, human rights abuses, and forced resettlement both within Burma and across borders, which has created hundreds of thousands of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), and has led to a protracted humanitarian crisis. Often compared to South Africas apartheid and the current situation in the West Bank (see U.K. Parliament 2013), the situation has resulted in substantial political, social, and economic marginalization of the Rohingya. Rather than addressing the underlying issues of historical interactions, political and socio-economic inequity, and military aggression, there is a tendency by the Burmese government and civilians to view the Rohingya themselves as the problem (see Chan 2005 and Kyaw Zan Tha 1995). The Rohingya case, in this sense, speaks to broader debates on the meaning of belonging and membership. The nature of the Rohingya crisis reflects the state of the ethnocratic political regime of Burma, issues that are deeply rooted in the historical and socio-political context of Burmas nation-statehood evolution. Islam is believed to have first reached Arakan in the 8th century AD, and through a gradual process of expansion in the 15th and 16th centuries, a distinct Arakanese Muslim community was formed (Grundy-Warr and Wong 1997). Following the colonisation of Burma by the British in 1824, the country was administered as a province of India until Burma gained its independence in 1948 (Ullah 2011). As Burma developed its sovereign identity, the Rohingya were increasingly excluded from the nation-building process and the community became progressively persecuted and subject to harsh state-sponsored abuses. Burma has a rich multi-ethnic and multicultural population consisting of seven ethnic minority groups that constitute approximately 30% of its total population, with the remainder being of the dominant Burmese ethnic group. For generations there has been

significant and constant human rights abuse and coercion disproportionately targeted at the ethnic minority communities. The military regime, believing the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants, frequently executed Tatmadaw (Burmese military force) operations aimed at punishing the illegal infiltrators (Grundy-Warr and Wong 1997). A series of legal instruments were developed that have stripped the Rohingya of their citizenship effectively making them stateless, and have provided a basis for discriminatory and arbitrary treatment. In the five decades that various regimes have ruled, there have been countless such events ranging in scale and levels of intensity, with the most severe leading to the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to Bangladesh, forced labour and conscription, torture, rape, and execution. Following an outbreak of riots between the Rohingya and Arakanese Buddhists in June 2012, there has been a sharp increase in anti-Rohingya communal violence, as well as widescale state-sponsored discrimination, persecution and human rights violations. In a recent report from Human Rights Watch (2013), the group makes accusations of ethnic cleansing supported by evidence of mass arrests and abuse of detainees, large-scale forcible displacement, calls for the elimination of the Rohingya, destruction of homes and mosques, and mass graves, all believed to have been co-ordinated by state-sponsored security forces. There are daily news reports of boats capsizing filled with Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution, Thai and Bangladeshi authorities committing violent push-backs of asylum seekers, and countless Rohingya being killed in anti-Muslim riots within Burma (see Bangkok Post 2013 and The Nation 2013). The situation has escalated to the level of a humanitarian emergency, with the Rohingya experiencing extreme levels of poverty, condemning them to a position of one of the most insecure communities in the world. It is estimated that there are 29,000 refugees officially living as residents in two refugee camps in Bangladesh, and an additional 200,000 living in Bangladesh outside of the camps in formal and informal settlements without government and humanitarian protection (The Equal Rights Trust 2012). With Burmas transition to democracy and engagement on the international politicaleconomic stage well underway, it is perhaps the crisis of the Rohingya, as well as that of other ethnic minority groups, which has the potential to undermine the nations progress. A significant number of observers argue that the root cause of the crisis is the denial of Rohingya legal status, suggesting that granting them citizenship would provide resolution (see The Arakan Project 2013 and United Nations 2012). These critics nearly unanimously call for the repeal or amendment of Burmas 1982 Citizenship Law, commonly identified as

the instrument most responsible for stripping the Rohingya of citizenship. While the possession of legal status is fundamental to an inclusive notion of citizenship, consideration of other non-formal dimensions of citizenship are just as necessary in expanding the boundaries of inclusion. The 1982 Citizenship Law was instrumental in officially marginalising the Rohingya, but other historical events and socio-political practices of exclusion have also been responsible. Thus, any solution must go beyond the granting of legal citizenship and seek to restore the imbalance created through decades of inequity. The objective of this paper therefore, is to challenge the centrality of the concept of legal citizenship through an interrogation of the Rohingyas exclusion within historical narratives, their ambiguous status, and their current socioeconomic insecurity in an attempt to move the conversation beyond their lack of formal status to understand the true nature of their exclusion. Theoretical framework Is citizenship an end in itself, or is it a means to a cohesive society? This question posed by Bridget Anderson (2011: 4) lies at the heart of the struggle for membership for the Rohingya. Theoretical constructions of citizenship typically emphasize four primary dimensions of the concept: legal status, rights, (political) participation and belonging (Bosniak 2000; Bloemraad 2000). While it may be suggested that citizenship is a necessary category of inclusion for members of a sovereign territory to claim rights, I will invert this notion through an examination of the ways in which citizenship is enacted exclusively to deny rights. From its inception, Michael Ignatieff (1987: 968) has argued, citizenship was an exclusionary category, justifying the coercive rule of the included over the excluded. Citizenship for the Rohingya as either the ultimate legal goal or as the product of dismantling the societys included-excluded dichotomy will be the focus of this examination. The majority of civilians in Burma have been politically marginalized for decades by a series of dictatorial regimes which, until 2012, only held sham elections that shunned democratic values and ensured that the military would remain in power. Given this climate, my analysis will not consider political membership and, instead, focus on the three remaining dimensions of citizenship legal status, rights and belonging as a way of highlighting the unique situation of the Rohingya. In the following section, I examine theoretical literature that explores belonging and citizenship, inclusion and exclusion, and statelessness and statecraft as a way of conceptualising how notions of belonging in Burma have been constructed, institutionalised

and perpetuated to marginalise the Rohingya. I seek to illustrate the ways in which each dimension of citizenship plays an important role in defining inclusion and exclusion. In order to contextualise the historical component of the analysis, I take the institution central to the notion of citizenship the nation state and explore the conditions of its evolution. Through exploring themes related to nation building, sovereignty, foreignness, colonial statecraft, minority-majority relations, borders, and (ethno)nationalism, in the following section I will examine the extent to which current patterns and practices are rooted in Burmas statehood evolution. In so doing, I aim to challenge the idea of the nation as an eternal organic body, (Arendt 1945: 156) instead arguing that the deliberate and calculated construction of Burma as both an ideal nation and state, by both the British colonial empire and successive Burmese regimes, has resulted in the marginalisation of those deemed incompatible with such ideals. While one cannot deny the devastating impact the lack of legal citizenship on the Rohingya, I argue that other forms of non-formal exclusion have been equally significant in determining their current state. While granting legal citizenship is an important step in the process of incorporation, this action alone will not fundamentally address the institutionalised nature of the discrimination that permeates Burmas social, political, cultural and economic structures. The final section of my analysis will, therefore, explore these substantive aspects of the Rohingya membership their treatment and engagement with the state and civilian majority within Burmese society. Ultimately, I will develop the idea that citizenship alone is not the answer to statelessness. Drawing on the case of the Rohingya, I will conduct a genealogy of exclusion to illustrate that their status is not merely a product of lacking citizenship, but rather embedded in more elaborate processes of nation building, ethno-political identification, and religious intolerance. The goal is to illustrate how these historical dimensions of membership constitute citizenship as belonging; formal determinations of non-citizenship constitute citizenship as a legal status; and contemporary practices and treatment constitute citizenship as rights as a way of fully conceptualising what citizenship means for the Rohingya.

Current statistics on Burmas population are unreliable and contentious. The last comprehensive census was conducted under British rule in the early 20th century, and

recent state estimates appear to intentionally minimise the number of ethnic minorities. The complicated ethnic politics of Burma also render the counting and classification of racial, ethnic and regional divisions cumbersome. Commenting on the difficulty of constructing an accurate historical narrative of the Rohingya, Smith (quoted from Irish Centre for Human Rights 2010) notes, after decades of isolation, the whole crisis is overshadowed by a complete absence of reliable anthropological or social field research, which means that different sides continue to circulate or even invent very different versions of the same peoples histories. Throughout this paper I will refer to Burma instead of Myanmar because, although the name is exclusive to the dominant Burmese ethnic majority group and does not reflect the countrys diversity, it is still used by most ethnic minority communities. It is also the name that the democratic opposition uses on the grounds that they refute the legitimacy of the regime that instituted the name change (see Taylor 2008). Given that one of the primary aims of this paper is to highlight state policies of exclusion, I prefer the use of the term Burma. Dimensions of membership: Theoretical approaches to citizenship Aristotle claimed that humans are political animals by nature, and without membership in a polis, we are not fully human. This idea that our humanity is dependent upon membership in a community is just one of many interpretations of belonging relevant to debates on the highly contested notion of citizenship. One of the most influential current conceptualisations of citizenship is Linda Bosniaks (2000) theorisation of its four dimensions: legal status, rights, political activity and identity/solidarity. I will focus my analysis primarily on three of the dimensions legal status, rights and identity/solidarity throughout my examination of the Rohingya case. Bosniak (2002) cautions against constructing a hierarchy of citizenship as status versus that which carries substantive enjoyment of rights, such as the work of theorists who distinguish between thin and thick versions of citizenship respectively, suggesting that all dimensions are necessary in the fulfilment of full citizenship. While I will use these foundational elements to structure the theoretical content of the paper, the empirical reality of the Rohingya situation will also be used to challenge the boundary of inclusion and exclusion implicit to the concept.

Citizenship as belonging

In his seminal account of the evolution of nationalism, Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson (1991) suggests that understandings of sovereignty over specific geographical territories are a relatively modern phenomenon, positing that borders were historically porous with overlapping sovereignties. With the growth and predominance of colonial and imperial empires, Western notions of the control over space expanded with each successive conquering as well as the introduction of their own concepts of identity and foreignness. Nationalism, he argues is not the awakening of nations to self-consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist. These notions are useful in exploring the impact of such essentialising legacies of the Indian empire on the development of Burma and concepts of identity for those living in the region. Anderson further posits that ethnic prejudice is rooted in ideologies of class, and suggests that racism is more likely to manifest itself within borders than across them, creating domestic repression more so than foreign wars. Such a theory is particularly relevant in the context of Burma given that the rise of ethnic tension corresponded to processes of border demarcation. As borders became less porous during the rule of the British Empire, and even more so following the partitioning of Burma and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from India, divisive notions of ethnic identity grew stronger within states, breeding new forms of domestic racism and conflict. Dr. Trude Jacobsen (2013) argues that the development of rigid borders had significant implications for the identities and subsequent livelihoods of groups on either side: The statelessness of the Arakanese Muslims [] and their oppression by the states in which they live, is a direct result of borders becoming impenetrable through the application of western norms of sovereignty to an area that even during colonial times continued to operate according to local ideas of space and place. Central to the nation-building project is the mediation of population disparities and differences through unification. Those deemed to be incongruous with normative qualities of the idealised community are excluded from the polity that may thereafter stand in opposition to the excluded group. The result has been the construction of a normative cultural paradigm and imagined community that places Burmese culture at the centre and

ethnic minority communities at the periphery. While efforts to unite Burmas ethnic communities under one umbrella a process known as Burmanisation have subsequently been pursued, such attempts were abandoned with regard to the Rohingya, thereby further marginalising the group and setting the stage for their exclusion from the nation-building project and incorporation into the state. This papers historical analysis will account for the evolution and production of the Rohingya as a community of non-belonging in Burma in an attempt to avoid portraying them as having eternally occupied a natural state of abjection.
Citizenship as legal status

Conventionally, citizenship within the context of liberal democracies consists of three components civil rights and political rights, which are given meaning through social rights (Marshall 1950). While some believe this conceptualisation of social rights suggests the need for social protections for marginalised citizens (see Ong 2006), the notion has recently been challenged by more progressive understandings of the concept that call for a more accountable means of including such individuals. The evolutionary account of social citizenship, according to Walters (2002: 283), makes sense only if we ignore the treatment of groups like aliens who were often present alongside these social citizens, but did not enjoy the same level of social rights. It is when a person or community are denied access to such rights due to their lack of power and privilege that the notion of citizenship begins to unravel. Exclusionary principles and practices that affirm non-belonging are intrinsic to the concept of citizenship and can be traced through its historical evolution. Though Aristotle spoke of the incorporation of humans into the polis, his conception of who counted as human those capable of rational choice and who were free fundamentally excluded large segments of the population, namely women, children, and slaves. Individuals whose benefits of memberships, or rights, have been sanctioned are characterised as partial citizens (Salazar 2001), non-citizens (Gilbertson 2006), and informal citizens among others labels (McCargo 2011). Once these members of the community are without rights, it is much easier to prescribe policies that promote neglect and/or more ruthless interventions into individuals lives (Dwyer 2004: 97). It is in this space that discrimination becomes routinized, legalised and legitimised through the enactment of formal instruments of exclusion. Many theorists on citizenship argue that in light of global social transformations, it is necessary to re-conceptualise and expand conventional notions of citizenship to

accommodate shifting notions of what it means to be a member of a state. Bryan Turner (2001) argues that globalisation and new forms of ethnic divisions have created a need for more expansive notions of citizenship that carry extended rights including: cultural citizenship (Miller 2002), inclusive citizenship (Kabeer 2005), differentiated citizenship (Young 1989), disaggregated citizenship (Ong 2006), informal citizenship (McCargo 2011), and cosmopolitan/global citizenship. Such post national conceptualisations of memberships are useful in illuminating the manner in which citizenship has moved beyond a category of status and now represents the myriad ways that people interact with each other and their (non)territorial structures. They also directly address issues of power differentials and the way in which certain groups are included or excluded from membership on the basis of such incongruities. While citizenship regimes have come to incorporate more people than during Aristotelian days that is, a recognition of citizenships expanding circle of belonging (Bosniak 2008) many argue that the idea of citizenship for all is still very much an ideal. Regarding the integrity of citizenship, Bosniak (ibid: 30) suggests, the progressive trajectory has been interlaced with other, more regressive social narratives that has led to a process of citizenship formalism by which citizenship has been extended horizontally to increasing numbers of social groups, [yet] the citizenship they enjoy in substance is often illusory. Again, we see that the extension of the legal status of membership does not necessarily carry with it the rights and practices that are critical to full incorporation. It is, therefore, important that any discussion of conferring citizenship upon the Rohingya be equally concerned with such issues. As Etienne Balibar (2004: 35) has famously stated, Man [sic] does not make citizenship; citizenship makes the man. Yet it is necessary to address the historical and social components to achieve the incorporation, not merely the making, of [wo]man.
Citizenship as rights

Individual rights are typically granted through provisions of the state to which a person belongs. Therefore, it is the stateless, those without citizenship living outside the pale of the law (Arendt 1951: 277), who are the most vulnerable to rights abuses. Such rights cannot be guaranteed via mutually exclusive institutions, but through their nexus: It is the embeddedness, political membership, and social inclusion that are necessary to have any rights at all, especially the human right to life itself (Somers 1998: 7).

In her review of Arendts theorisation of rightslessness, Seyla Benhabib (2004) suggests that statelessness is a human condition of losing both citizenship and human rights, or the denial of the right of every individual to belong to humanity (Arendt 1951: 296). Benhabib deconstructs Arendts notion of the right to have rights by analysing the dual meaning of the word rights: the first iteration implies a moral claim to membership and a certain form of treatment compatible with the claim to membership, whereas the second use of rights, based upon the aforementioned claim to membership, refers to the entitlement of an individual to engage in a course of action (Benhabib 2004: 56). A mutual denial of both entities is the defining condition of statelessness, according to Arendt (1951: 295): Their plight is not that they are not equal before the law but that no law exists for them; not that they are oppressed but that nobody wants even to oppress them. In the sense that the Rohingya lack any formal or informal membership within a political community, and are excluded from acting within such a sphere as a result of their denial of status, they represent an archetypal notion of Arendts dispossession of the right to have rights paradigm. Arendt suggests that the right to have rights is contingent upon the notion that incorporation into a community is based on practices and actions of the individual, as opposed to how the individual was defined at birth. In the same way that the principles of jus sanguinis and jus soli privilege a certain type of insider, one that can prove their belonging on the basis of historical properties, granting rights and the entitlement on the basis of birth right also serves to perpetuate the marginalisation of those not possessing favourable lineage. Emphasis of racial and ethnic bonds over civic criteria, or the construction of racially or ethnically exclusive nationality and citizenship laws, often results in statelessness for the excluded, especially those from minority communities (Blitz and Lynch 2011). Despite the Rohingyas substantiated claims to a significant history in the region, the community is denied membership on the basis of the perceived lack of Burmese ancestry and is unable to seek incorporation through actionable means. While Arendts theorisation around the lack of rights illuminates issues surrounding persons who exist outside the confines of the state, Giorgio Agamben (1998) scrutinises the lack of rights of those who have been simultaneously cast out of society and subjugated by it. Agamben conceptualises the homo sacer as a figure who, in contrast to the citizen who is the embodiment of politicised life, is depoliticised and leads a bare, rights-less form of life subject to authoritative control. Those perceived to be a threat to the sovereign are

metaphorically, and often times physically, ejected from the space of the norm. He argues that those who lack citizenship are cast into: a zone of indistinction between outside and inside, exception and rule, licit and illicit, in which the very concepts of subjective right and juridical protection no longer [make] any sensepower confronts nothing but pure life, without any mediation (ibid: 169). The included are dependent upon those who are exempted, thereby blurring the line between exclusion and inclusion. The sovereign law, through the amelioration of the Other by means of appropriation and control, is therefore able to define and maintain itself. In the context of citizenship as a dimension of rights, Agamben (1998: 128) argues that rights are inherently preserved within the figure of the citizen. The citizen, not man is the bearer of such rights: Rights are attributed to man (or originate in him) solely to the extent that man is the immediately vanishing ground (who must never come to light as such) of the citizen. It follows that it is the refugee, or in this case the non-citizen or stateless individual, that breaches the nexus between human being and citizen and is, thus, rights-less. De Genova discusses how such a vision of exclusive citizenship can be distinguished along the lines of citizen and enemy that militarises national divisions and places citizenship on the side of state violence (ibid: 52). State-sponsored control and persecution against the Rohingya, which has also fuelled communal violence, will be examined through this logic of exception. Many theorists take issue with the nation-state as being the central institution through which individuals seek rights. Agamben posits that it is the nation state which has systematised the distinction between the politicised being and the no longer human that lacks legitimacy in the context of the nation-state (Schutz, 2012: 121). Nyers (2003) suggests that human rights are best actualised not through a territorially bounded system, but through a cosmopolitan sense of humanity. Some argue that the nation-state system is rooted in a tension, or contradiction, between the principle of sovereignty and human rights (see Benhabib 2004 and Staples 2012) given that states may exercise the sovereign right to exclude (Anderson et al: 549). Consistent with this idea, the process of Burmanisation, or the unification of Burmas ethnic groups, under undertaken by the Burmese-dominated regime could be understood as an expression of national sovereignty intent on subjugating the minority communities to fit the constructed image of the ideal nation-state. As such, it is

necessary to problematize the idea that solutions to the Rohingya crisis (e.g. citizenship) should necessarily be sought within the framework of the nation state. Citizenship as belonging: Historical dimensions of incorporation Through an exploration of the pre-colonial settlement of Muslims in Arakan, the impact of colonialism, and spread of Islam throughout Burma, this section will examine the way in which the current situation of the Rohingya in Burma is rooted in the historical evolution of the nation-state and shifting notions of belonging. In the sense that citizenship is shaped by a citizenly sentiment (Bosniak 2000: 479), the process of Burmese nation-building constructed a feeling of unity amongst Burmese, but excluded other ethnic minority groups, and particularly the Rohingya. Such a segmented sense of belonging reaffirmed ethno nationalist identities while also serving to create tension between the disparate groups, a structure that has since served as the basis of the Rohingyas marginalisation. The history of the Rohingyas presence in Arakan is widely disputed and typically stratified according to sentiments towards the Rohingya struggle, ranging from pro-Rohingya supporters to anti-Rohingya nationalists. The more sympathetic proponents tend to argue that the Rohingya are indigenous to the Arakan region, while sceptics suggest that their arrival may have been as recent as the 19th century (see Irish Centre for Human Rights 2010 and Kyaw 1995). The term Rohingya itself is derived from the word Rohang, which was the former name of Arakan, leading many to believe that the group is native to the region. Academic literature on the subject and non-Burmese accounts nearly unanimously defend the notion that the Rohingya have existed in Burma since anywhere between the 6th and 9th centuries.
State-building during the colonial era and independence struggle

The legacy of colonialism is very much reflected in contemporary constructions of identity, nation and belonging pervasive throughout Burma and specifically in Arakan. Prior to the colonial period and during its initial phases, the borders of the British Indian Empire including what is now India, Burma, Pakistan, and Bangladesh were extremely porous. Burmese and ethnic minority communities alike resisted the British systems of identification and incorporation into their rigid categories by crossing borders without permission, resettling and shifting locations, intermarriage, and forming creole languages. James Scott argues (2009: 7), For long periods of time people moved in and out of states, and stateness

was, itself, often cyclical and reversible. This pattern of state-making and state-unmaking produced, over time, a periphery that was composed as much of refugees as of peoples who had never been state subjects. Such movement created social and cultural fluidity as well as regions of bewildering ethnic and linguistic complexity (ibid). The result was often the arbitrary separation and combining of minority communities. The system of identity classification utilised by the British still has significant effects on the interactions between the various ethnic communities today. It was their systems that brought such issues of identity, which had previously been muted, to the forefront of Burmese politics: whether intentionally or not, the consequence of the policies pursued by the British reified ethnicity and made religion an issue in the politics of Myanmar. This was the result of both acts of omission and acts of commission (South 2008: 9). Scott (2009) explains that race was operationalized by language, which perhaps explains the Burmese belief that the Rohingya are Bangladeshi, given that their dialect is more similar to Chittagonian than Burmese. Colonial records indicate the British referred to the Rohingya as Chittagonians, referencing the area of East Bengal from which they are believed to have originated (Bahar 2009). Believing those who speak a particular language form a unique, definable unit and that this unit had a particular culture and a particular history (Scott 2009: 239), the fact that the Rohingya dialect also incorporated Burmese and Bihari as well as other Persian languages further conflated the identity of the Rohingya. This inability to apply a systematic label to the ethnic amphibians (ibid: 241) has rendered them unknowable and, therefore, threatening. Various regimes have had a particularly nuanced means of constructing a national narrative as part of the state-building process. During Burmas independence struggle, General Aung Sans unity in diversity agenda defined nationalism as liberation from colonial oppression. Subsequent regimes have embarked upon the Burmanisation of ethnic minority groups, a process through which the diversity of culture and history is suppressed and consolidated as a means of building a unitary state (South 2008). Such a process also carries with it implications of indigenous belonging on the part of the dominant group. This form of nativism as argued by De Genova (2010: 53), is best apprehended precisely as native -ism a promotion of the priority of natives, on no other grounds than their being such and thus operates inextricably as a politics of identity animating all nationalism. The claim that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants with the implication that the Arakanese majority is

native to the region despite evidence that the ancient name of the territory refers to the Rohingya as its original inhabitants proves inconsistent. Not unlike the biopolitical conceptualizations of national identity is the notion of race as fundamental to nationalism. As affirmed by General Ne Win in 1979: Today you can see that even people of pure blood are being disloyal to the race and country but are being loyal to others. If people of pure blood act this way, we must carefully watch people of mixed blood. Some people are of pure blood, pure Burmese heritage and descendants of genuine citizens. (Speech of U Ne Win, quoted in Smith 1991: 36). This attempt at cultural corporatism, according to Mikael Gravers (1996: 240), constructs a utopian view in which an imagined Myanmar has one singular cultural essence, which is embodied in all individual citizens. Critical of the governments approach to statecraft, Dr. Maung Zarni (2012) argues that Burma has carefully constructed an iron cage a monolithic constellation of values, an ethos that locks in and naturalizes a singular view of what constitutes Burmas national culture that relies on an enervating combination of pre-colonial feudalism, religious mysticism, belief in racial purity and statist militarism. While efforts to unite Burmas ethnic communities under one umbrella were subsequently pursued, such attempts were abandoned with regard to the Rohingya, which marginalised the group and set the stage for their exclusion from the nation-building project.
British Colonial Era and the Muslims of Burma

The British occupation of Arakan and incorporation into the Indian Empire which began in 1824 marked a new era for the country and its engagement with regional powers. During that time, Muslims were categorised as either Burman Muslims referring to those who had inhabited the land prior to the arrival of British settlers, which includes the Rohingya or Indian Muslims, those sent to support the colonial administration (Grundy 1997). Grundy (ibid: 80) suggests that such distinctions in Arakan, which hosted 41% of Burmas total Muslim population, often proved difficult to maintain: Without detailed population surveys and local knowledge any subsequent efforts to base Burmese citizenship within Arakan on

distinctions between who is and who is not of Burman origin would be extremely suspect, if not completely erroneous. In order to meet their growing labour demands, the British moved significant numbers of the population between East Bengal and Burma (Ullah 2011). The resulting influx of Indian Muslims in Burma drastically altered the dynamics of the Muslim community: The immigrants coming created a large, new, and more advanced minority of foreigners which made itself hated by the local populace, which was also true of other minority groups from India. Their organizations had [] more initiative and will to act to protect their separate religious and cultural identity in the midst of their Buddhist environment (Yegar 1972: 27). By 1921 there were one million Indians residing in Burma, at least half of whom were Muslim (Bahar 2009). Such immense population flows across virtually invisible borders led what Scott (2009: 18) describes as hybrid identities and social fluidity that was constructed and reinforced by colonial powers. Many segments of the Burmese population grew to resent the arrival of the new Indian community on the basis of their religious and ethnic differences, lower standards of living, favouritism by colonialists, and greater access to labour opportunities, which helped confirm the Burmese impression that the immigrants were dispossessing them of their country (Yegar 1972: 32). An unfounded rumour that Muslims were intent on waging a holy war upon the call by their lords (Rahman 1979: 200 quoted in Bahar 2009) further fuelled anti-Muslim sentiments that continue to have an immense impact on the sociopolitical structure and notions of belonging among Muslims in Burma. Burmas independence from Britain in 1948 exacerbated tensions between the government and Muslims, in particular the Rohingya, who were excluded from the nationbuilding process founded on Buddhist principles and ethnic origin. Burmese Muslims sought to gain favour with the Buddhist majority through a process of de-Muslimfication in the public sphere. Yet, according to Yegar (1972: 112), the majority in Burma does not distinguish, socially speaking, between Burmese and Buddhist, hence the Muslim is a foreigner. Despite their attempts to unconditionally support the nationalist movement as members of the Burmese community, the Burmese Muslims were, like the Indian Muslims, regarded as foreigners.

The historical evolution of the rift between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities in Burma, as well as the simultaneous nation-building project centred on the ascension of the dominant Burmese-Buddhist majority, were pivotal in laying the groundwork for more recent tension and conflict between the communities. Claims that the Rohingya are illegal Bengali immigrants are deeply rooted in historical notions of ethnic identity arbitrarily defined by the British. Such ideas also reflect the hostility and fear many Burmese felt toward the invasion of Indian immigrants as part of the colonial labour scheme that has carried over for generations. Additionally, centuries of circular displacement and return at the hand of oppressive regimes have been used by the Burmese government and population as further proof that the Rohingya are immigrants, thereby justifying treatment and abuses on the basis of their foreignness. This determination of non-belonging has been a significant element of ensuring that the Rohingya are denied access to citizenship. Citizenship as status: Legal constructions of membership Since independence, the states normative values of the ideal citizen have progressively been reduced to the qualities of religion and ethnic heritage through legal instruments and statesponsored practices that formally enforce and reproduce the Rohingyas lack of formal status. Such shifting ethnic-political requisites for membership have, in essence, created a moving, virtually unattainable target for the Rohingyas claims to full incorporation as citizens. Imtiaz Ahmed (1999: 30) suggests that the stateless person is not merely a person devoid of legality. S/he is above all a social and political person, often in a state of disempowerment socially, economically as well as politically. Through an analysis of judicial instruments developed since Burmas independence, I turn to an examination of how the Rohingyas lack of legal status serves to undermine their security.
Post-Independence Incorporation

According to Bahar (2009: 24), In the wake of independence most of the educated Muslims felt an overwhelming sense of collective identity based on Islam as their religion and the cultural and ethnic difference of their community from the Burmese and Arakanese Buddhists. Following Burmas liberation, successive regimes began to target the Rohingya, identifying them as a threat to the national agenda. Against this backdrop, the regulation of the Rohingya went from local management to being enshrined by legal regimes and statesponsored military operations. Under Article 11 (iv) of the 1947 Constitution, newly-arrived

Indian immigrants were denied citizenship, but most other ethnic minorities, including the Rohingya, obtained National Registration Certificates, which conferred full legal status and allowed them to participate in the political system (Human Rights Watch 2012). The Constitution also guaranteed religious freedom for all citizens. While the document acknowledged Buddhisms special position among the majority of citizens of Burma, there was also recognition that Islam, among other religions, was being practiced at the time of drafting the Constitution. Chapter II, Article 20 of the document asserts, All persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess and practice religion subject to public order, morality, health and other provisions of this Chapter (ibid). Additional clauses addressed issues of discrimination specifically with regard to those based on religion and called for the equality of all citizens.
Post-Independence Struggle

The Rohingya enjoyed over a decade of relative calm and religious tolerance until General Ne Wins coup in 1962 brought the abandonment of the Constitutions provisions. The Burma Socialist Party, a military organisation with Ne Win as the Chairman, subsequently rose to power and dismantled all Rohingya social and political organisations. Ne Wins Burmese Way to Socialism was, among other pursuits, a means of gaining coercive control over the borderland ethnic communities. In order to do this, he had first to enslave and impoverish the Burman. Only by doing so, was he able, from 1962 onward, to wage an imperial war against the non-Burman (Smith 1997: 103). The Emergency Immigration Act of 1974 stripped the Rohingya of their national registration certificates and replaced them with foreign registration cards (Cheung 2011). In 1977 the military conducted the Nagamin national census in which all citizens were required to register while the Rohingya were barred from doing so. The following year more than 200,000 Rohingya were violently forced into Bangladesh on the basis of lacking citizenship (Ullah 2011). Denying accusations that they were committing attacks on their own civilians, the Burmese government claimed that those fleeing to Bangladesh were illegal Bengali immigrants who had crossed into Burma as part of a general expansion in the Bengali population in this region and denied responsibility by stating that the violence was initiated by armed bands of Bengalis, rampaging Bengali mobs and wild Muslim extremists (Irish Centre for Human Rights 2010: 92). General Ne Win agreed to allow some refugees to return mainly women, children and elderly individuals under the condition that they

were to be confined to strategic hamlets surrounded by wire fencing, under strict military control and unable to engage with the outside world. The residents are also provided with special identity cards that denote that they were bad elements. The 1982 Myanmar Citizenship Law is currently considered to be the defining piece of legislation that has the most significant consequences for the Rohingya. The law identifies three categories of citizens full, associate and naturalised (Human Rights Watch 2012). Full citizenship is determined on the basis of belonging to one of Burmas 135 national races, which the Rohingya are not as defined under the 1947 Constitution, or proof that ones ancestors settled in Burma prior to 1823 (The Equal Rights Trust 2010). This date as a condition deliberately targets Muslims, and specifically the Rohingya, as it marks when the British occupied Arakan and began transferring Indian labourers, many of whom were Muslim. Therefore, any Rohingya whose ancestors migrated during the time of the colonial regime or thereafter have no ability to claim citizenship under Burmese law and are, thus, legally stateless. Even in cases in which residents are confident that their ancestors arrival in Arakan pre-dated the British occupation, they must be able to provide conclusive evidence of their lineage which, in the majority of cases, is impossible due a lack of formal documentation. The laws requirements of possessing good character and sound mind are naturally subjective criteria. Subsequently colour-coded Citizenship Scrutiny Cards identifying the three citizenship categories were distributed, which the Rohingya were denied on the basis that they are resident foreigners, and anyone lacking such a document is subject to arbitrary and coercive treatment. In 2008 the government began issuing temporary registration cards which have been utilised as a means of racialising citizenship and denoting those who do not belong on the basis of ethnicity. For instance, there is a field on the card relating to race in which the authorities generally write Bengali or Muslim. While the certificates have traditionally only been issued to citizens, those issued to the Rohingyas are clearly marked not evidence of citizenship (Irish Centre for Human Rights 2010: 97). Additionally, the development of a centralised unit to handle citizenship issues had a significant impact on the Rohingyas status: The ample powers assigned to a government-controlled central body to decide on matters pertaining to citizenship mean that, in practice, the Rohingyas entitlement to citizenship will not be recognised (Ullah 2011: 143). Within spaces of exception, the border dividing legality and illegality is difficult to discern thereby producing a liminal experience for those who confront it. Laws and legal

instruments, as well as accompanying enforcement mechanisms, which are theoretically meant to protect citizens, may be structured in such a way as to punish non-citizens using protection as a justification for such institutions and practices. Those responsible for creating the zones of exception often use, manipulate, emphasize and deal with the problem of refugees and myriad threats as a way of protecting the supposed rational order of the state-nation-citizen nexus (Soguk 1999: 212). Legislation that has been passed in recent decades to legally exclude the Rohingya from membership and participation in the Burmese state naturally does not have this result as the explicit aim. Instead, the exclusionary devices are often shrouded in the desire to build a homogenous nation state and the protection of civilians from the threat of outsiders. The conditions of citizenship in Burma are also arbitrarily subject to the unpredictable discretion of the government: According to the terms of the law, only full and naturalized citizens are entitled to enjoy the rights of a citizen under the law, with the exception from time to time of the rights stipulated by the StateAll forms of citizenship, except a citizen by birth, may be revoked by the state (Human Rights Watch 2012). Moreover, details of a persons religious affiliation are required for the government to issue any legal documents, including permits and national registration. Consequently Muslims, and particularly the Rohingya, do not have access to such documentation, and because anyone who is without national identification may be punished as an illegal immigrant, such processes create a vicious cycle of eviction and exclusion. Their denial of recognition before the law leaves them vulnerable to arbitrary abuses by both government forces and civilians, and poses a general threat to their well-being. In spite of their exclusion, which has been enshrined in law and the coercive practices by the government, the Rohingya have historically asserted their belonging by emphasizing both the legal and non-legal aspects of their membership. In 1995 the Rohingya National Alliance (RNA) published a statement arguing that the group had previously been recognised as nationals, citing they had actively participated in all elections since 1947 and had membership within parliament, thereby proving that they had formerly been regarded as full citizens. While the National League for Democracy has been advocating on behalf of the rights of ethnic minorities with some degree of success for select communities, the Rohingya have not benefited from such progress, which is a testament to not only the widespread animosity toward this group, but also the disparity between substantive political action and rhetoric. There has been significant criticism from the international community regarding

Aung San Suu Kyis silence on the matter since the democracy leaders election to Parliament in 2012 (see Al Jazeera 2012 and The Independent 2012). The governments construction of a racially-based form of legal citizenship has had dire consequences for the Rohingya, who have endured cycles of expulsion and arbitrary abuse as a result of their lack of documentation. Thus, the refusal to provide the Rohingya with protection and access to rights through a framework of legal status has served only to perpetuate their delegitimization as citizens. States of exception: The denial of rights as a strategy of exclusion Reflecting on Arendts analysis of the refugee as the disembodiment of rights, Agamben (1996: 161) describes these individuals as people who have really lost every quality and every specific relation except for the pure fact of being human. In the sense that the zone of indistinction is a site where techniques of individualization and totalizing procedures converge (ibid: 34), the violence, rape, and murder committed against Rohingya bodies as well as mass displacements and wide-spread persecution of entire communities demonstrates the magnitude of this space. To recognise one as human is to acknowledge their place in the natural order, yet their statelessness and denial of rights casts them outside any order, leaving them to exist as the excess of political constitution. This section is concerned with social and political practices constitutive of citizenship (Walters 2002: 267), those strategies that define the limits of membership through actions pursued by the core to maintain control of the periphery. Techniques of control exercised by the state are deeply embedded into the fabric of the nation. Through discriminatory practices enacted by the government and civilians, there has emerged a continuum of state and sectarian domination and rights denial which has produced the Rohingya as a community of noncitizens. Since Ne Wins coup in 1962, Burmas military government and subsequent regimes have been responsible for the violation of human rights. This stems from the Rohingyas lack of citizenship and status as a nationally recognised minority group that leaves them vulnerable to abuses. One aspect of Agambens concept of bare life is the dependence on the whims of the police or other state auxiliary for full enjoyment of life, livelihood, and personal security and dignity (Rajaram and Grundy-Warr 2004: 50). The state-sponsored persecution and enabling structures have legitimised equally divisive actions on the part of civilians. The Rohingyas current deprivation of rights and status is linked to their historical

exclusion from the Burmanisation project of prior regimes: The Rohingyas represent one of the so-called counter-identities vis--vis the dominant state-centred national identities of dominant ruling groups. Furthermore, it is the drive for state-centred security that lies at the heart of the Rohingyas current dilemma (Grundy-Warr and Wong 1997: 87). In this sense, the Rohingya on the basis of their religion, ethnicity, and linguistic distinctions have been rendered outsiders in a country that is the only one that the vast majority has ever known.
Exclusionary practices

Described by some as an open prison (Lewa 2009: 11), North Arakan is the site of widespread discrimination against the Rohingya on the basis of religious and ethnic difference. The most frequently documented large-scale abuses include: extra-judicial killings; rape and sexual violence; torture; political arrests and detentions; forced relocation; destruction of livelihoods and confiscations of land and resources; home and business arson; forced labour; child labour; human trafficking; use of child soldiers; and the denial of freedom of movement, assembly, association, expression, and religion (Islamic Human Rights Commission 2005 and Petrasek 2000). Such abuses take place particularly in minoritydominated regions where there is no adherence to judiciary process. The Rohingya despite their minority status in North Arakan constitute the largest population in prison on account of the crimes committed as a result of their lack of status, effectively punishment for their statelessness. Underlying these violations is the denial of citizenship and the right to nationality, which has been used consistently to justify the use of such draconian policies and practices. Exclusionary legal structures and instruments that serve to systematically deny the Rohingya claims to citizenship also serve as the basis for their mistreatment. The essence of Agambens zones of exception is that individuals are placed outside of the law. Many of the practices committed against the Rohingya are carried out by authorities and have been designed to discipline the Rohingya in ways inconsistent with the treatment of the majority population. Lisa Malkkis (1995: 498) examination of the segregation of nationalities, the control of movement and black-marketing, and law enforcement and public disciplining, which resulted from the spatial concentration of people is reflected i n the case of the Rohingya. The ordering of the Rohingya by has placed them in a space physically exempt from engagement with the law, and by holding them in discursive stasis, also positions them to be represented as threatening figures in need of containment.

Religious persecution

Despite there being no official state religion, Burma has had a long tradition of politicised militant Buddhism and regimes have systematically promoted Buddhism as a political weapon and as a tool to suppress its non-Buddhist opponents (Alam 2011: 10). Campaigns against religious freedom have constructed an ideal of exclusive citizenship based on Buddhist moral superiority, alienating those who fall outside the sphere of righteousness. Several anti-Rohingya protests have been led by Buddhist monks, the most influential and respected members of Burmese society and whose moral authority is exploited to justify poor treatment. Indeed, the recent violent outbreaks in central Burma, geographically isolated from Arakan, suggest that anti-Rohingya sentiments in Arakan are part of a larger anti-Muslim campaign. A local group of monks have embarked upon a campaign of exclusion in which they have called for forcible separation and remova l of the Rohingya from their communities. According to one monk, They are eating our rice and staying near our housesSo we will separate. We need to protect the Arakan people....We dont want any connection to the Muslim people at all (Human Rights Watch 2012: 4).
Zones of exception

The denial of freedom of movement as a result of travel restrictions and states of emergency, combined with the inhumane conditions of the few townships to which the Rohingya are confined and heightened militarization of their communities, have subjected the community to a camp-like existence. Authorities have also used Rohingya forced labour and confiscated land to construct model villages for Buddhist Rakhine and Burmans intended to separate them from the Rohingya communities that, once abandoned, relegate them to a literal zone of exception, surviving outside of all social, economic, and political institutions enjoyed by the dominant groups that confer belonging. On the other hand, zones of exception are not merely exclusive to camp settings or demarcated territorial spaces specifically intended for the containment of the excluded. In the way that borders have come to occupy a space not just at the fringes of a nation but also internally through their pervasive regulatory manifestations, so to do these zones extend far beyond their centre of power. As Walters reading of Agamben suggests, we find ourselves virtually in the presence of the camp every time exceptional measures are taken to institute a space in which bare life and the juridical rule enter into a threshold of

indistinction (Walters 2002: 285). The sphere in which the Rohingya experience life outside the pale of the law may be physically bounded, but are more often manifested through differential treatment. The maintenance of these lawless zones have paradoxically become enshrined in Burmese law through the denial of legal citizenship. Such abuses have created a dire humanitarian crisis, further complicated by the government controlling and restricting access to impacted areas (Human Rights Watch 2012). Especially during times of heightened violence and states of emergency, often the subsistence and survival for the Rohingya namely, humanitarian assistance from international organizations, support from countries of asylum, or charity from residents of Arakan is dependent on goodwill rather than affixed rights. In an attempt to permanently resolve the Rohingya-Rakhine unrest, in 2012 President Thein Sein appealed to the UN to resettle all Rohingya outside of Burma. The proposal drew intense criticism from the international community, with the UN responding, As a refugee agency we do not usually participate in creating refugees (Human Rights Watch 2012). Once the Rohingya flee to neighbouring countries their struggle is often further complicated and exploited on account of their irregular status. In Malaysia, the Rohingya are frequently convicted on immigration-related charges, detained unlawfully and indefinitely, and deported either back to Burma or into the custody of traffickers along the border of Thailand to work as slaves (The Equal Rights Trust 2010b). Such practices highlight the vulnerability of these refugee communities and the ineffective humanitarian policies of those countries responsible for their protection. Refugee camps established in Bangladesh along the Arakan border reportedly boast horrendous conditions that is thought to be somewhat intentional on the part of the Bangladeshi government in an effort to deter the arrival of more refugees (Cheung 2011). The camps are also under-resourced and UNHCR is not able to meet the full protection and humanitarian needs of the residents (Ullah 2011). The refugee journey is often cyclical in nature and individuals rarely find a permanent solution to their marginalization, instead enduring indefinite periods of discrimination and abuse in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia before often returning to Burma to embark upon the process once again. There is no consensus regarding the extent to which the behaviour of security forces is part of a broader elite strategy to cleanse Arakan of its threatening elements or if their actions are embedded in the regions ongoing communal conflict. It is possible that there may be grander structures of oppression behind seemingly arbitrary forms of state power,

(De Genova and Peutz 2010 quoting from Sutton 2011: 640) but it is just as likely that the violence and abuses committed by the authorities in Arakan are reflections of public sentiment that is residual of state influence, but has in more recent years become somewhat detached from it. It appears that from the outbreak of sectarian violence in May 2013 between Muslims and Buddhists in central Burma where there are no Rohingya but large Muslims communities that have coexisted peacefully alongside Buddhist communities for generations that civilian-level persecution supported by local-level authorities is pervasive. It is possible that such practices may embedded in a repertoire of techniques of social regulation and [] state-building (Walters 2002: 271), but only time will tell us the extent to which this is the case. Conclusion The Rohingya have been ejected from the state-nation-territory trinity (Agamben 2008), rendered not only stateless without citizenship, but just as importantly, without a sense of belonging and a basic set of rights. Through the contentious historical presence of Muslims in the region, decades-old exclusionary legal instruments, and current discriminatory practices and abuses, the group has been placed at the geographical and metaphorical margins of society. The demonization and construction of the Rohingya as an enemy of the state through racialized and religious-oriented notions of belonging have created a dire human rights and humanitarian dilemma for Burma. Citizenship as a legal status, in and of itself, is not the answer to the Rohingya crisis, unless these accompanying issues are also taken into consideration. Citizenship for the Rohingya means more than their lack of birth certificates, their names being struck off family lists, and their lack of identification and travel documents. The concept means being born as less than equal, being an outsider in the only country one has ever known, not being able to access protection and entitlements from the ones country, and living under constant subjection to state-sponsored and communal discrimination and persecution. Citizenship, in this sense, is a way of categorising the Rohingya as the Other. The plight of stateless persons highlights the necessity to seek solutions to human rights abuses outside of the nation state framework. Protection regimes that are not territorially bounded are necessary in order to guarantee the security and well-being of such communities. As it currently stands though, only individuals who are legally recognised by a state are entitled to protection and rights, admittedly at differentiated levels. The EUs

position on the Rohingya that the problem came from Myanmar and therefore any resolution should come from Myanmar (BurmaNet News 2010 quoting from Staples 2012:154) blatantly disregards the reality of the situation that produced the Rohingya crisis as well as their current reality. This is not an argument for the abolishment of the rights and membership granted by the institution of the state, but rather an acknowledgement of the need for additional creative solutions for those located outside the purview of the nation state. Burmas ascension onto the international stage has raised both hopes and concerns regarding the sustainability of the nations progress. Sassen (2003: 286) has noted, It is that citizenshipeven if situated in institutional settings that are nationalis a possibly changed institution if the meaning of the national itself has changed. As US and EU sanctions have recently been lifted and multi-national companies are pouring in to take advantage of the resource-rich countrys offerings, the political and economic power of the nation is surely undergoing revision. One must also question the way in which such shifts may impact the national. The pre-colonial concepts of identity and the subsequent Burmanisation of the national identity paved the way for discriminatory legislation as well as state-sponsored and civilian human rights abuses. Such events have engendered the evolution of a type of citizenship in Burma defined on the basis of ethnic and religious identity that excludes those who do not fit the strategically constructed ideal. As the effects of globalization penetrate the country, ideas of what constitutes the national will invariably shift, having significant implications for notions of citizenship. It is hoped that the current regime redefines Burmas conceptualisation of citizenship to accommodate new structures of belonging that ensure the rightful, inclusive and full incorporation of the Rohingya.

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